BROOKLYN, NY - In the classic movie Groundhog Day, actor Bill Murray wakes up day after day to the exact same chain of events. Cardinal Hayes may have felt the same way when they played Bishop Loughlin on Friday.
After leading for the entire game, Hayes was barely holding on to their lead in the final second. In their season opener against Christ the King they would lose as poor free-throw shooting came back to haunt them but against Loughlin, the Cardinals would escape the Lion's gym with a 74-70 win as Shavar Newkirk (11 points) went 4 for four in the final seconds.
"We practiced free-throws after the last game," said Newkirk. "We knew we had to win this one."
Same as last time, Hayes jumped out to an early lead as 6'2" shooting guard Chris Robinson (12 points) and Newkirk capitalized on turnovers by a Loughlin squad that was out of control early. Mustafa Jones (17 points), who was ineffective during their home opener, used his quickness in the paint putting Hayes up 6-0.
The Lions would finally put points on the board in a hurry as Jayvian Delacruz (12 points) scored from the perimeter. Loughlin played hurry up offense and would catch-up and pass Hayes with 3:24 left in the opening quarter as Khadeen Carrington (19 points) got to the line. Tyler Wilson (11 points) countered with strong drives in transition giving Hayes the upper hand 16-13 at the start of the second quarter.
Although the Lions flew up the court after every defensive rebound, early in the second quarter there were few to be had. A jumper by Robinson, a trey by Newkirk and a baby hook by Jones would spark a 15-2 run that left the Lions in the dust and suddenly down 31-15.
Carrington carried the team on his back as the Lions tried to chip away at the Cardinals lead. A late turnover by Hayes followed by a buzzer beating put-back from Mike Williams (14 points) would minimize the damage but the Lions were still down 38-26 at the half.
The Lions were still playing out of control to begin the third quarter as Williams picked up a charging foul. A bank shot by Robinson followed by a basket from Jones would re-bury Loughlin into a 14 point hole with 6 minute left in the quarter. For the next few minutes the teams exchanged baskets.
Williams ignited with a 1:03 remaining as he drained a 3-ball from the corner and scored again off a drive. Another Hayes turnover and the Lions roared into the fourth quarter only down by 8 points.
In the fourth quarter, Hayes tried to slow the pace and burn time off the clock at every opportunity. The strategy would back fire as the Bronx, NY team would miss baskets and allow the Lions to score in transition.
Albeit with less than stellar free-throw shooting, the Lions would still manage to cut Hayes's lead to 4 points with a 1:42 left in regulation. Superior offensive rebounding by Hayes would momentarily keep Louglin at bay as time wound down. That is until Jamal Smith (5 points) missed three of four clutch free-throws that would shift the momentum.
A quick basket by Khalik Howe (5 points) and Loughlin was now only down 70-68. Newkirk would get fouled twice on subsequent possessions but the junior guard would be pure from the line, giving the Cardinals a 4-point lead with 10.7 left to play.
Coming out of a time-out with a designed play, Loughlin would fall short as Williams missed on a heave as time ran out.
"Coach [Joe Lods] told us to keep our focus [this time]," said Robinson.